Most cinephiles regard “Blade Runner” as a seminal sci-fi film. It’s widely considered to be one of Ridley Scott’s very best, and also one of the earliest notable examples of what would later come to be known as cyberpunk. And yet what’s not so frequently mentioned is the film’s source material: that would be Philip K. Dick and his great post-apocalyptic novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Dick’s books are often so dense and opaque that an average reader might deem them unfilmable, though Richard Linklater’s wooly “A Scanner Darkly” certainly gave it the old college try. “Blade Runner” is first and foremost a crackerjack genre film, action-packed and loaded with bizarre, indelible neon-lit iconography. It is also, however, a movie of sly intelligence – one whose deeper themes only come into focus after a couple of viewings.
“Blade Runner: The Other Side of Modernity,” a video essay from The Nerdwriter that highlights how Scott’s third film looks at quote-unquote modern life, namely in the form of identity, the 20th-century urban experience and social hierarchy. There’s also the unavoidable motif of eyes throughout “Blade Runner,” from the film’s unforgettable opening shot to the use of optical scanners that determine who is or is not a replicant. The essay is mainly concerned with the notion of how something as singular as individual identity can exist in such a world as the one Scott and Dick have created, with Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard – who weathers doubts about his own humanity throughout the film – serving as the audience surrogate. Frankly, “Blade Runner” works just fine without all the analysis, but there’s some fine points being made here. It will be interesting to see what a cerebral director like Denis Villeneuve does with his upcoming reboot, though given the beloved nature of the mythology at play here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the song remains more or less the same.
Check out the video essay below.